By Derrick Boston
The following is an interview with representatives of two answering services – Belinda Campbell, of World Class Communications in Seattle, WA; and Josh Weingart, of Answer, Inc in Lakewood, CO.
Question: What prior methods had you used in scheduling appointments?
Belinda: We used to schedule appointments using books. We took appointments for a psychiatric group but they stopped using us. We have just started scheduling appointments again.
Josh: We made a specialized form using software provided by our system vendor.
Question: What are some of the advantages you would look for in a new appointment scheduling software?
Josh: That it is interactive and the operators can’t schedule over each other and they can’t double book at the same time. That was our main problem with our previous system; two operators would save at the same time and one message would be overwritten.
Question: How long is the training time on your current system and how have the operators reacted to it?
Belinda: It took about 4 – 5 hours to learn the new system including time on the phone for questions to the vendor.
Josh: It took no more than 3 – 4 days for everyone to get comfortable. And it’s now included in our 4-day training program and it takes no more or less time than any other area. As far as the operators’ reaction, it’s definitely favorable. They enjoy being able to do some of their work interactively on the Internet.
Question: What is the most important thing that any other answering service should know about choosing an appointment scheduling system?
Belinda: It boils down to not letting it intimidate you. It must be very user friendly as a lot of it is common sense. It should work for any kind of client – not just doctors.
Josh: The most important thing is that it opens up a whole new area for revenue.
Question: How have your business clients reacted to your new appointment scheduling system?
Belinda: We only have one client on it now and it is just fine. Our client keeps changing his schedule, now that he can and we need to train his staff to make changes on their own. Our client can block out their own non-work times and confirm their own appointments. Right now they ask us to do it but we have to get them going on it too.
Josh: It’s extremely positive for all of our clients. The only downfalls were in the beginning when it was getting started.
Question: What are two of your favorite features of your new appointment scheduling system?
Belinda: The ability to block operators by making them inactive so they can’t long in. We use this with operators who are not properly trained or are new. The ability to see schedules without making changes would also be good for training. I like the ability to customize the work hours on different days.
Josh: I like the interactive schedule where you can see the calendar in front of you and you can see it in any time increments you want. I think that makes it easy for the operators. As far as the stats, I like being able to pull up information by operator or by business and see how many appointments were scheduled, so we can see which operators did the work.
[From Connection Magazine – September 2001]